Review: Swimfan

by Jake Sproul

Rating: (out of )

Chocolate, that $50 polo shirt from J. Crew, Swimfan. If this was a question from the game “Tri-Bond,” the answer would “guilty pleasure.” While we might enjoy all three things, we know they are not good for us. Chocolate increases our waistline; cosmetic surgery hurts the pocket book, and Swimfan, our intelligence.

Yes, Swimfan is entertaining. However it uses one of the most antiquated story lines in the book. Swimfan is a carbon-copy of Fatal Attraction, geared toward the unassuming teen demographic. Have we really reached the point when we have run out of ideas for movies that we are forced to use tired and contrived plots. One might think so judging by the 1997, almost verbatim, rendition of the Alfred Hitchcock classic, Psycho. However, I can just not accept this, after seeing such recent cinematic soirées and achievements this like Minority Report and The Good Girl.

Ben Cronin is a high school senior who has everything going for him. He is the star of his high school swim team, he has a beautiful girlfriend, and an all-around perfect life in suburban New Jersey. Enter the new girl, Madison Bell. She and Ben meet on her first day of school, and continue to run into each other and flirt with each other. Things take an unfortunate turn when Ben’s urges just cannot be controlled, and he sleeps with Madison.

Ben thinks that their fling was just that, casual sex. However, like all men, he soon discovers there is no such thing as casual sex. Madison perceived their rendezvous as much, much more. She becomes obsessed with Ben. Sending him an obscene amount of e-mails, of a very graphic nature, and leaving numerous messages. When Ben makes it very clear that “he’s with Amy,” When Madison discovers that she will never be with Ben, she does the only other option, ruin his life.

The characters of Ben, Amy, and Madison are shells of real people, and thus it makes it hard to care about what happens to the three during the course of the movie. Their personalities are completely fashioned out of events, instead of mannerisms.

Swimfan is told from the perspective of the prey, rather than the predator, which makes Swimfan seem all the more antiquated. Had it been told from the perspective of Madison, and her attempts to woo him, and eventually destroy him, the movie would have been significantly better.

Playing an insane/lunatic person is defiantly a challenge. The key is play the character so that we hate the person, yet we fell sorry for them. Kathy Bates nailed it in Misery, Glenn Close succeed in Swimfan’s predecessor Fatal Attraction, and now we have Erika Christensen. Her performance is the stand-out of the movie, however, she isn’t given nearly enough screen time or dialogue. We don’t get to really loathe her and pity her. Instead all we see are her actions, and expected to hate her. Jesse Bradford, who we recently saw in March’s Clockstoppers, plays the object of Madison’s desires. He neither turns in a forgettable performance. Not disappointing, but the role wasn’t a very juicy one in the first place.

During the course of this 86 minute film, there were several pieces of dialogue were emphasized by the same line shot from different angles, then all strung together. This was not only annoying, it was condescending. They might as well have flashed a sign that said “**GASP**.”

Call me anal, but I just cannot get over the unrealism of such a soap opera taking place in a high school setting. Such things just don’t happen. There are no twisted sex affairs, no webs of deception, and no murders in high school, especially in suburban New Jersey! Take this as a not so subtle hint all yous bitches and hoes at 20th Century Fox.

Being in high school myself, and considering that my website is Teen Film Reviews, I find it pertinent to touch on some high school myths and cliches that riddle Swimfan. First, the actors are just way too old to be playing high school seniors, with the possible exception of Shiri Appleby (Amy). In reality, these actors would be out of undergrad study in college! The next is the amount of floors in the high school. At one point during the movie, they show Ben running up what looks to be 7 flights of stairs in his high school. This just isn’t likely in New Jersey, and while it was filmed at a real high school, it doesn't epitimize the "typical" high school.

Swimfan is terribly unoriginal. It doesn’t conjure up any new ideas or twists that haven’t already been trail blazed by previous endeavors. There is entertainment to be had, however the numerous cliches, and stereotypes make Swimfan worth a rental, but a pass at the theatre. Excuse the pun, but Swimfan is all wet.

© 2002 Jake Sproul

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